Here’s a little test that I’d like some thoughts on. A couple of different guitar tones, A & B. I’ve done them solo and in context. I haven’t post- eq’d these at all. I would perhaps do a little bit of that in the mix, depending on my feeling at the time.
Which do you prefer and why?
What differences do you hear?
What do think the differences might be?
(These are both recordings of the same guitar, pickups and performance, btw)
A sounds more lively and maybe more scooped than B which sounds more midrangey and flat. I think A sounds better, it also sounds closer to the speaker than B, which sounds further away. A has more background noise as well. I’m not really sure what I am supposed to be listening for though. Is one amp real and the other modeled or something? If that’s it I say A is real and B is modeled… or I could be completely wrong about everything because I am listening on crappy earbuds and don’t really know what I am talking about lol. Those are my wild guesses and observations though.
Agree, A has a more scooped American sound while B is the flatter mid-rangey sound. Both really nice by the way. In context, A I think has a nicer overall sound. The guitar seems to be part of the band in A, whereas in B not so much. Really liking the vibe of the song though! Had a feel of the Free / ACDC about it
I agree with the rest although I’m not sure if the term ‘scooped’ covers it (I know I tend to mis-interpret that term anyway). I like A more than B directly when I heard the the solo’d version. B sounds a bit nasal to me (mind you: om my laptop speakers!). I like A even better in the mix. Madpsycot’s reference to Free is a nice one!
I won’t try and guess how you recorded it. there’s so many options these days….
I like “B” in context better, although it does have a little honky-ness to it. “A” has more low end and fights with the bass in the mix and sounds muddy to me. “B” may not sound quite as full and “hearty” on its own, but I like how it cuts through in the mix and lets the bass handle the low end. Mix B has more clarity and space as a result, but maybe could benefit with a minor cut in the mids IMHO…
In solo: A has a nice full bottom (not unlike myself ) and sounds more “classic rock” to me.
B has much more midrange info which I tend to really like. There’s a bit of verb on B which gives it a different vibe, kinda reminds me of ZZ Top, although that could be way off base with reality. B feels a bit more harsh in the upper mids, but solo it doesn’t bother me. I think if I were given these tracks to mix, I’d pick B because I think it has more qualities that I like… although the verb is an interesting wild-card if it came to me baked in.
Context: I think after a few listens I like A better in context, with the caveat that it still needs some eq… It’s kinda muddy but that can be fixed pretty easily. In it’s current state it sits a bit better. That being said, a bit of EQ’ing on B and I would definitely prefer that. B might sound cool as a lead tone and as a contrasting tone to A, it would definitely cut through a bit more… but could definitely come across as too harsh. Either way I think both need a bit of tweaking in a proper mix situation.
Thanks for all the input! Great to get all your unbiased opinions!
Cool - A lot of good insights there!
I did that deliberately, so as to ensure there was no expectation bias.
Thanks! I don’t mind those comparisons at all!
Very insightful! Your summary makes perfect sense!
So “A” seems to be the consensus generally then.
…and it’s always great to get some alternative viewpoints as well! You all make great cases!
Hey Blair! I always enjoy your well-thought out comments - I appreciate you taking the time!
This is a very valid point, and one I probably should have accounted for when I presented the comparison…
In fact, I roughed up a very basic “context” mix, but my plans were always to add two other rhythm guitar parts, with the tone presented above as being the centre, featured part… so that does change the context quite a bit.
First a little bit about the different tones:
“A” is the Scuffam S-Gear 2 amp sim set like this:
“B” is in fact a real, miked-up amp rig. Signal chain is as follows: Guitar > Vox Big Ben Overdrive > Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special amp > Marshall “1966A” 2x12 cab loaded with Celestion 25w “Greenback” speakers > SM57 mic (dead centre of speaker cone, right up against the grille cloth) > Steinberg MR816CSX interface pres. I also had Carl Martin Delayla XL delay pedal in the FX loop of the Mesa, which I switched on for the solo.
The reason I did this shootout is I had long been thinking about a cool" guerilla recording" method of creating decent isolation between my “control room” and a blaring guitar amp without spending any extra money.
I had been doing some recording for a cover band I’m in using amp sims for expediency, when I had an opportunity to compare some amp recordings we had done “live off the floor” with the amp sim tones. Now, I’m definitely NOT purist in these matters, but what struck me about the recorded amp tones compared to the amp sims was just how downright gorgeous the high mids and the top end in general sounded in the real amp recordings. Another thing I noticed was that the amp tone just seemed to sit in the track without any processing… so it got me thinking…
The issue with recording loud guitar tones in small spaces is that the volume of the amp always compromised your ability to make informed mic placement decisions… and mic placement (even inches of variation) makes a HUGE difference to guitar tone. An isolated control room is really the only way to be able to listen to the guitar tone (from a real amp) in context and to dial in a tone that you know will work best in the musical environment you’re envisioning.
…So I finally had some spare time to experiment with my “ghetto recording” amp isolation idea, and here it is: (this footage is a link from my “FytaKyte” FB page)
…And here is some footage of the amp setup etc:
I guess preferences differ, but I noticed I was always making certain eq moves to get recorded amp sims to sit in a mix. When I got this isolated amp setup working, I was able to move the mic until the amp sounded the way I wanted to hear it in the mix without any eq. That is the tone I got with “B”
I guess opinions and preferences are bound to differ, but I really love how “B” sounds in the full context of the mix… so now, here are the two tones in that fuller context, still with no eq.
Tone “A” in full context
Tone “B” in full context
Let me know your thoughts on it all… and thanks again for all your replies
In the fuller context of the mix I think I understand what youre getting at. Another thing I noticed apart from the tone of the amps (now with headphones) it seems B has a sharper attack than A. That would help cut through the mix!
I agree with Boz… had I known it was a real amp I may have just said use that and EQ to taste I love amp sims… but I’ll take a real amp about 9 times out of 10. S-gear has always impressed me for non-high gain stuff though.
After listening to the more in-context clips… I’m actually starting to lean back towards B because of how it cuts through. Depends on if there’s vox on top of that though I suppose.
P.s. love the Iso-Van™! I’ve got my cabs set up in a bathroom next to the mix room so when I’ve got them cranked I have to put headphones on and crank those. Ugh.
Yes, that is definitely why I love blind tests. Expectation bias is a treacherous thing! Even in a case like this, where the sounds a so different that there is certainly no need for “squint” mode, it’s much better to just get “raw opinions”.
Yeah, it S-Gear still remains my favourite sim. That said, there is nothing like playing through my rig. It’s my sound that I’ve used live for years now, and I didn’t really appreciate how much I loved how it sounded until I heard it back, recorded from those cover-band sessions… & it wasn’t even like we took any care when miking it up for the session - we just threw an SM57 in front of the speaker!
This part of the song is instrumental, so the centre guitar is the main “voice”.
Iso-Van! Haha I love it! Yeah, monitoring loud amps - even with closed-back headphones - is a quick path to premature hearing loss and tinnitus. I feel your pain.
I might try seeing how the back of my Golf GTi works next!